Tunes on Tuesday: On A Slow Boat To China

Why this tune?

Frank Loesser’s 1948 song “On A Slow Boat To China” was inspired by a phrase used by poker players, according to his daughter Susan. He crafted a romantic story about a lover wishing to take her mate on the longest trip imaginable, to keep her “all to myself, alone.”

This 70-year old tune seems topical today, as we’re finally able to start thinking about long trips again. Slow boats are also in the news this week, although the ship stuck in the Suez Canal is much less romantic.

This is another lovely tune by Loesser that works equally well without his clever lyrics. There are about as many instrumental recordings as vocal ones, over 200 in all. This song has been part of my playlists for years, with singer Barbara Papendorp and in instrumental groups. You can hear my latest solo piano version below.

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Full piano track

Dee Dee Bridgewater

Oscar Peterson and Clark Terry

Published by Oren Levine

Jazz pianist and composer in Washington, DC. Also a digital product and technology professional working at a small DC nonprofit

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